No Sympathy for this Devil

Horns by Joe Hill

No spoilers, but you’ll know more than I did before I read it

I knew two things about this book before I started reading it:

1) I think I saw some bus posters advertising this film with Daniel Radcliffe in it. 2) My friend Fiona (in her second appearance on this site) said it’s good.

I don’t usually choose my reading material based on films starring terrible actors, but Fiona is usually right about these kind of things so I took her borrowed copy and gave it a go. Unusually for me I didn’t even read the blurb of the book, and just dove straight in to the first chapter.

My lack of knowledge of the basic premise made the first few chapters more enjoyable than they would be normally. I woke up with the main character Ig (not literally you understand) on the anniversary of his girlfriend’s murder also not knowing what on earth these pointy things were coming out of his head, and why people were talking to him in a frighteningly frank way. Not that the whole horns thing ever really gets explained anyway, but it definitely heightened the mystery of the book not knowing anything about it beforehand. I may try and read more books that way, so hit me with your recommendations in the comments.

To cut a long story short, (which incidentally is what I wish Hill had done) I read just over half the book in one night. The beginning was fantastic and really set up the story well, apart from revealing ‘whodunit’ about 5 chapters in. Agatha Christie he ain’t, but that’s not really what the story was about. It was more about what happens once Ig knows who murdered his girlfriend and why, and unfortunately this is where the story fell apart.

If you are a fan of Stephen King then you’ll probably love the last gory quarter of this book, not least because Hill is King’s son and the blood-stained apple doesn’t fall far from the haunted tree (or something). However for me the book felt like a badly-planned roller-coaster; lots of slow set-up and building of characters, then a quick violent drop into the main action, then you’re wading through the confusing symbology of the conclusion trying to find somewhere to throw up.

I still think it’s worth a read for the first half alone, and in all seriousness I recommend not bothering with the second half. But if you do, you might want to explain the meaning behind the tree house to me, because I’m still puzzling over that one…

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